LAPD officers shot Ezell Ford in self-defense and won’t be charged, says DA’s office

By Elizabeth Chou, Los Angeles Daily News

January 24, 2017

 

AR-170129714.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667Criminal charges will not be filed against the Los Angeles Police Department officers who killed 25-year-old Ezell Ford, whose 2014 shooting served as a lightning rod for activists protesting law enforcement shootings of black and Latino suspects.District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Tuesday she would not press charges against officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas for the fatal shooting of Ford, who was black. The shooting occurred on Aug. 11, 2014 in South Los Angeles in the 200 block of West 65th Street. Prosecutors concluded in a 28-page report that the officers “acted lawfully in self-defense and in defense of others when they used deadly force against Ezell Ford.”Officers engaged Ford after seeing him interacting with “known” gang members, the report said, adding that officers suspected him of attempting to throw away an “illegal substance” into some bushes. During a struggle that followed, Ford was fatally shot after one officer said he was trying to grab his gun, prosecutors said. Some witnesses said that Ford was not the aggressor, but prosecutors questioned their telling of the events after some parts of their accounts failed to match up with the physical evidence. Prosecutors also speculated that there may have been some confusion because of the low-lighting at night, when the shooting occurred. Lacey told reporters Tuesday that prosecutors believe they have “evidence showing that Mr. Ford was struggling for possession of that gun.” Lacey’s long-awaited decision follows a 2015 ruling by the Los Angeles Police Commission that one of the officers was justified in opening fire, but the other violated department policy.

While deciding whether the case warranted criminal prosecution was “not a close call,” it was nevertheless “tough because of the public interest in this case, and when this case occurred, in terms of the national discussion about the policing of communities of color,” Lacey said. Many observers had not expected criminal charges to come out of the District Attorney’s Office, which has not prosecuted an officer for an on-duty shooting since 2000. Lacey said that does not mean there will never be an instance when an officer may be punished for an unlawful shooting committed while on the job. “There could come a case one day wherein the facts are there,” she said. “We’re unafraid to charge an officer with a homicide.” But their office needs to look at the facts of each individual case, she said, and “it can’t be based on public opinion.” The office’s “mission is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 jurors that the officer involved committed a crime,” she said. “And when we looked at the physical evidence in this case, namely the DNA on the holster, as well as interviewed every witness and (we) looked at every transcript that we can, we determined that the evidence supported the position that the officers acted in self defense.”

While Lacey’s decision came as no surprise to many, Ford’s mother said during a news conference at First AME Church in South Los Angeles that the family is “hurting.” Tritobia Ford said the officers, who were assigned to desk duty, were “getting away scot-free,” and that she feels “there will be no justice for Ezell.” “The last ditch effort, the last bit of hope that we had, has been crushed,” she said.

Ford’s parents sued the city in March 2015 and reached a tentative settlement near the end of last year. Their lawsuit alleges Wampler and Villegas “intentionally and/or negligently fatally shot unarmed decedent Ezell Ford multiple times with their firearms” after he had complied with their order to lie on the ground. The lawsuit also alleges “the officers knew Ford was ‘mentally challenged’ and that he was not committing a crime at the time.” The decision comes as city officials are seeing an increase in the amount of payouts for settlements and judgment, many of them due to police shooting cases. Outcry over the shooting of Ford and others, including from the local chapter of Black Lives Matter, have also placed pressure on officials to become more sensitive to the needs of the families and friends of people killed by police. Lacey said Tuesday that she now sends a personal letter to each person killed by police, explaining the process for investigating the incidents. The Los Angeles Police Department has also set up a process for families to get information about their loved ones who were killed by officers. Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed sympathy for Ford’s family in a written statement Tuesday, saying that “As a father, and as a mayor who has grieved with too many Angelenos crushed by the unthinkable loss of a child, I know that due process will not soothe the anguish still being felt by Mr. Ford’s loved ones, and that no investigation can discover the depth of their pain.” He added that while he accepts Lacey’s decision, he will “rededicate my administration to the search for better ways to protect the safety of all Angelenos” and continue to support “de-escalation” training for police officers.

The Los Angeles City Council also took a step toward a discussion on policing practices. The council approved a contentious ballot measure for May that aims to increase the role of civilians in deciding police punishment. The initiative is backed by the police officers union, but was criticized by advocates and activist groups like Black Lives Matter, the ACLU and Community Coalition for not going far enough and potentially resulting in more leniency for officer misconduct.

Council President Herb Wesson vowed Tuesday to use the measure as an opportunity to start a larger “conversation” on policing practices and the disciplinary process. In addition to approving the ballot measure language, which would allow police officers who have been accused of serious misconduct to go before an all-civilian disciplinary board, the council also backed motions to look into other issues and to create of an ad hoc committee that will monitor the performance of the civilian board.

 

Posted by on Jan 24 2017. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Comments for “LAPD officers shot Ezell Ford in self-defense and won’t be charged, says DA’s office”

  1. Best Coast

    Black LIES Matter is a racist hate group.

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